A Rotherham manager who helped steer its leaving care service from ‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’ in the aftermath of its child sexual exploitation (CSE) scandal has been named overall social worker of the year.
Louise Pashley picked up the gong, alongside the team leader of the year for children’s services prize, at the annual Social Worker of the Year Awards ceremony last Friday.
In an event that mixed praise for the profession along with sombre reflections on that day’s London Bridge attack and social divisions highlighted by the election, the chief social worker for adults, Lyn Romeo, was awarded the outstanding contribution to social work.
In addition, 15 other practitioners, teams and organisations won awards for their social work practice and management across adults’, children’s and mental health services, while 17 others won ‘silver’ prizes.
Rotherham born and bred
Pashley, who is Rotherham born and bred and has worked for the council for 26 years, starting as a personal adviser, manages one of its two leaving care teams.
In 2014, the year in which an independent inquiry issued a devastating verdict on the council and partners’ response to CSE, Ofsted rated the council’s leaving care service as inadequate, saying it could not assure itself that young people were safe. Three years later, the inspectorate rated the same service as ‘outstanding’, saying that “a skilled and dedicated team of staff keeps in constant contact with the young people to ensure that they stay safe and are protected against harmful behaviours”.
Pashley’s awards nomination came with glowing tributes from young people and colleagues for her commitment and high expectations for care leavers, and set out her key role in the transformation of the service.
The council’s service manager for leaving care, Sharon Sandell, said the team and young people were “all incredibly proud of Louise”, citing her “focus and unerring commitment to getting what is right for our young people”.
Romeo was not able to pick up her award at the ceremony, as she is currently on sabbatical in Australia, caring for her mother, but was represented at the ceremony by her two interim successors, Fran Leddra and Mark Harvey.
Romeo qualified in 1977 and then worked across child protection, hospital discharge, mental health and learning disability services before becoming England’s first chief social worker for adults in 2013. Since then her successes include inserting a clear role for principal social workers in the Care Act 2014 statutory guidance, while she has also commissioned a raft of practice guidance and standards across a range of topic areas and striven to increase social work’s role in the NHS.
Awards trustee Rob Mitchell, principal social worker at Bradford council, said: “Lyn is an inspirational leader, a quiet radical, who is extremely personable and sometimes understated in her approach but tremendously impactful in terms of the change she has been able ot affect.”
The awards were started in 2006 by social worker Beverley Williams, who organised them while working full-time and with no sponsorship, since when they have grown considerably.
Williams remains on the awards’ board of trustees, which is now chaired by former Birmingham adults’ and children’s services director Peter Hay.
He said: “Being recognised on a national scale is an outstanding achievement not just for our winners but for all of our 94 finalists and I’d like to personally congratulate each of them, they should be extremely proud of their achievements.”
Social Worker of the Year winners
Mental health social worker of the year (supported by London Borough of Tower Hamlets)
Thea Radburn, Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust
Silver awards: Jessica Jones, Norfolk County Council; Ingrid Richardson, Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust
Making a difference award (supported by Tees Vallley Local Authority Child and Adult Services)
Sarah Frances, Bramley Health
Silver award: Denise Smalley, PAC-UK
Student social worker of the year (supported by Bradofrd Metropolitan District Council)
Mary Carter, Anglia Ruskin University
Silver award: Elizabeth Dodd, University of Salford
Practice educator of the year (supported by North Lincolnshire Council)
Djamila Aggabi, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Silver award: Shelley Gill, Durham Council
Creative and innovative social work practice (supported by Hampshire County Council)
Futures Service, Leeds City Council
Silver award: Devon Prisons ASC Team, Devon County Council
Social work employer of year (supported by Sanctuary Personnel)
Leeds City Council children’s services
Silver award: Suffolk County Council children’s services
Team leader of the year, adult services (supported by Sunderland City Council)
Jack Skinner, Bradford Council
Silver award: Annika Leland-Bolton, Doncaster Council
Team leader of the year, children’s services (supported by Devon County Council)
Louise Pashley, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Silver award: Hannah Gregory, Gloucestershire County Council
Team of the year, adult services (supported by Unison)
ASC west locality team 3, Leicester City Council
Silver award: West Devon community health and social care team, Devon County Council/Livewell Southwest
Team of the year, children’s services (supported by London Borough of Lambeth)
Family group conference plus team, including lifelong links, Devon County Council
Silver award: Hillingdon adolescents team, London Borough of Hillingdon
Newly qualified adult social worker of the year (supported by BASW)
Ella Waughman, Cambridge County Council
Silver award: Hannah Creasy, Livewell Southwest
Newly qualified children’s social worker of the year (supported by Children’s Social Work Matters)
Dan Grimes, Cambridgeshire County Council
Silver award: Penny McGee, London Borough of Islington
Adult social worker of the year (supportey Servelec)
Teresa Barrett, Livewell Southwest
Silver award: Maxine Thurston, Norfolk County Council
Children’s social worker of the year (supported by Barnardo’s)
Joanne Worley, Essex County Council
Silver award: Caroline Heyworth, Essex County Council
Championing social work values (supported by Essex County Council)
Emma Cox, Central Bedfordshire Council
Silver award: Miranda Lynn Johnson, Birmingham City Council
Lifetime achievement award (supported by BASW)
Carole Goodman, Cafcass
Silver award: Chris Denovan, Somerset Council
Outstanding contribution to social work (supported by Kent County Council)
Lyn Romeo, Department of Health and Social Care
Overall social worker of the year
Louise Pashley, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (supported by Sanctuary Personnel)